Home At Last
The 1842 Savannah town home of Karen and Ted Kleisner is their fourth home in the city, and according to Karen, their last. The couple has spent a lifetime entertaining others as Ted’s career as a top hotelier required a lifestyle of entertainment. Retired from Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company in 2013, Ted is also the former CEO of CSX Hotels, Inc., once owner of the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia where he and Karen entertained 200 nights per year! Their five-story brick town house has been custom-renovated to entertain their children, five grandchildren, and friends.
I met the Kleisners years ago when I was working with the famous American decorator, Carleton Varney on designing and manufacturing the Greenbrier’s furniture, so I fully expected a home that was decorated to the nines. Karen who has always practiced interior design and worked with designer Bitsy Schwabe and Kuykendall Interiors decorated the entire house and her unique collection of antiques and decorative arts is displayed in a warm, comfortable way that announces the house as an elegant and happy family home. A year and a half of renovations by Hansen Architects and Lukejohn Dickson of Savannah Kitchen and Bath under Karen’s guidance have rendered this home as one of Savannah’s finest. Karen said she got her sense of color from Carleton Varney, owner of the prestigious Dorothy Draper & Co., Inc. firm.
Anyone who knows Carleton knows that he is America’s Mr. Color! Karen has been in love with Savannah’s architecture since the couple first moved to town in 1973 when Ted was brought in as the General Manager of the DeSoto Hilton. The home had great structural bones, yet the Kleisners were challenged by the many weight-bearing beams when it came time to open the house up by moving walls. They commend Lukejohn Dickson and the Hansen teams for their excellent work in maintaining the structural integrity of the house while opening up the rooms of the former downstairs apartment. Gracing the entryway is an unusually wide staircase for the period, making a grand gesture of welcome. An elevator was already in place, and the two-and-a-half car garage made this home the perfect final-destination for the Kleisners and their extended family.
The collection of objects were purchased by the Kleisners at auctions, through antique shops, and some with assistance from Varney. The open living and dining room plan is painted in a cozy terra cotta color that is the anchor color of the Zara rugs from Istanbul.
Story by Paula S. Fogarty
Photography by Bailey Davidson